What’s the best medium for a story?


I have not read War Horse, but I took my eldest child to see the Steven Spielberg film version when it was released in early 2012. We both liked it (particularly John Williams’ outstanding score) but with reservations. It felt episodic and somehow not as powerful as it should have been.

Last September we saw War Horse again, this time the stage version. It was absolutely fantastic. Theatre seemed the ideal medium for the story, and the plot no longer felt episodic. It was a much more powerful, far more emotionally intense experience seeing the horrors of war depicted so vividly right before one’s eyes. The phenomenal puppetry and Brechtian staging somehow felt more real than the real horses used in the Spielberg film.

All of which got me thinking, what is the ideal medium for any given story? Clearly War Horse is a much better play than film, and I was reminded of a similar case in 1995 when Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was turned into a film with Daniel Day Lewis. The film wasn’t bad, but again, that story is much better suited to the stage, with all that witch hunt hysteria right in your face.

Conversely, the film versions of Jaws and The Godfather are much better than the books they are based on. Stargate worked much better as a TV series than as a film. I prefer the Game of Thrones TV series to the books, whereas the Harry Potter books generally are far better than the films. In spite of rumours it might be made into a film, 24 only works properly as a television concept. As for The Lord of the Rings, it is both a great book and a great series of films.

However, some books continue to defy adaptation in any other medium. The most obvious example I can think of is JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield’s disturbing, darkly comical inner monologue simply could not be depicted in any other form save the written page. A film version would be “phoney”, to quote an oft used word in the novel.

Catcher in the Rye

Could I write a novel as medium specific as The Catcher in the Rye? I seriously doubt it, but never say never…

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3 Responses to What’s the best medium for a story?

  1. Great article! I’ve been asking the same questions for a while now. I wrote a three-part story (the equivalent of three books or films) that were originally intended to be released as live-action movies. However, complications regarding location, casting, cooperation with the local police and filming in my school shot down the chances of doing anything in front of a camera. Naturally, every story is presented with a challenge, but I ask your opinion. Having written the stories in script format, what do you think is the best way to present a story? What is the most intriguing, exciting way to tell the tale? In short, my story does not involve supernatural things that require intricate effects and whatnot, but does sport a LARGE variety of scenes.

    Thanks for the article!

    • simondillon says:

      Hi Klaus – I’m not quite sure what you’re asking here. Are you asking advice on how to direct a film? Or are you asking advice on how to turn it into a novel?

      • klauslibelle says:

        Woah, I’d forgot that I’d commented! Sorry for the delay! My question was how to decide what medium is best for your stories. I always pictured this story as a film, but perhaps it’s better as a book. How does one determine this?

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